I can’t even tell you how many variations I heard of the same line when I was preparing to go through the temple to receive my endowment: “The first time you go through the temple is SO WEIRD.”
Okay, vague much?! Thanks for the helpful tip, except it’s not a tip and it’s not helpful at all. So actually, NO THANKS.
Thankfully (for real this time) when I was preparing for my endowment, I was going to school at BYU—Idaho, and my stake required everyone to go through a short class about the endowment before receiving their first (non-limited use) temple recommend. Without going into any sacred details, the class briefly covered what to expect of your first initiatory and endowment session.
The class was helpful and informative, but there’s one thing I remember more vividly than anything else: the member of the stake presidency who was teaching the class said firmly, “These are God’s ordinances and commandments — don’t you think it probably hurts Him when we say that they’re weird?”
Because of that class, I felt fully prepared when I did enter the temple for the first time — and truly, I didn’t think anything about that experience was “weird.”
Being ill-prepared to enter the temple will likely result in a less-than-satisfactory experience. Yet on the flip side, being well-prepared will result in a positive one.
So how can we be well-prepared? Here are a few simple tips.
Read “Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple”
Temple prep classes are awesome, but I honestly believe the best thing anyone can do to prepare to enter the temple is read this manual written by President Boyd K. Packer. Published in 2002 at 37 pages, it’s relatively short, but it holds so much helpful information and teaches its readers what to expect within the temple walls. In addition to covering topics such as symbolism and the temple garment, this manual contains gorgeous pictures of different temple rooms and their purposes. Like the class I attended, “Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple” gives a great overview of the temple experience while respecting the innate sacredness of the temple covenants.
Review the Creation
Before I went through the temple, my stake president recommended that I review the accounts of the Creation. These are found in the Old Testament as well as in the books of Moses and Abraham in The Pearl of Great Price. As President Russell M. Nelson said, “Such a review of ancient scripture is even more enlightening after one is familiar with the temple endowment. Those books underscore the antiquity of temple work.”
Study “Personal Preparation for Temple Blessings”
This 2001 talk given by President Nelson is essentially a condensed version of “Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple.” Since it was a conference talk rather than a manual, “Personal Preparation for Temple Blessings” doesn’t go into as much detail as President Packer’s guide. Even still, the talk contains a vast wealth of suggestions one can pursue before (and after!) entering the temple to allow them a better and more enlightening experience.
Focus on Feelings
If you’ve ever taken a friend who isn’t a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to church with you, you know that your friend is likely to have a lot of questions. Three hours of new information is a lot, and I would never expect a friend (or anyone, really!) to remember everything they learned. Rather, I’d hope that they focused more on the feelings they felt at church instead of attempting to memorize everything they’d heard.
The same is true with the temple. The first time you go through (and in reality, probably the first several times), you’re not going to understand or remember everything — and that’s okay! Instead of trying to remember or even comprehend every aspect of your temple experience, focus more on the feelings you experience. Remember and reflect often on the peace and love you feel in the temple, and know that understanding of temple doctrine will come with time and attendance.
Attend with Loved Ones
Because the temple is a new experience, it’s easy (and understandable) to feel a little overwhelmed — and if you’re surrounded by random members of your ward that you don’t know well, you may feel awkward and/or vulnerable. Attend the temple with people you’re comfortable around! Go with people you trust and feel comfortable asking questions. I went with only two people (my father and step-mother) and it was a wonderful, intimate, and warm experience. Surround yourself with people you love — your temple experience will be all the better for it.
The more I attend the temple, the more I love it. Take it from someone with experience: the temple, as you continue to go as frequently as circumstances allow, just keeps getting better.
What tips were helpful for you the first time you went through the temple? Or if you haven’t been, what questions do you have? We’d love to hear them in the comments!